“People need the home they live in to take care of them” Michael Reynolds (the ’garbage warrior’, creator of Earth ships). Of course, this is what shelters are for, are they not? And yet, for so many in the modern world, houses are only a financial commodity, often in excess to their actual living needs, inefficient, poorly designed & made from all manner of energy intensive & toxic materials.
Below left: back to basics, Steph rendering with cob (subsoil & hemp hurd) onto bamboo screen. Below right: finished with Rockcote’s clay plaster & Rockcote’s finecoat clay plaster (white layer at bottom left of picture).
No place like home: The most basic function of a house is shelter from the elements, a means of keeping dry from the rain, shaded from the sun & protection from wind and fluctuations of temperature. The local environment (climate & specific site conditions) should largely determine materials, layout design & building style. The placement of a building within the landscape is important too, minimising extreme exposure although allowing for natural ventilation & lighting. Surrounding vegetation can be used to modify local conditions. In my own experience, starting with an unbearably hot, bare paddock, after 3-4 years of planting trees, the house temperature became more moderate & now, after nearly 20 years of growth, the house remains cool in summer & barely a breeze blows through when distant trees are lashed by gale-force thunderstorms. Building (& planting) over a long period of time has allowed us to observe the change of sun angle over the seasons. Although shaded from the hot western sun in summer by deciduous trees, in winter the low morning sun stretches across 6m of veranda to warm the kitchen. Hence the garden is an extension of the home, acting as a buffer zone to the wider world.
Put a hat on: Durable roofing materials are perhaps the most convenient of modern building developments, although the pay-off is that they are also energy & resource intensive (iron sheeting, concrete, glazed fired ceramic tiles). Given that roofing is the most important function of a house, this investment is perhaps necessary & one should endeavour to ensure that whatever materials are used require minimal maintenance & have long life. Rooves made from component parts like tiles & corrugated iron can have damaged parts replaced. Extending the roof line with eaves or the ubiquitous Australian veranda also protects external walls from sun & rain damage, as well as aiding temperature control internally (stays cooler in summer). In my experience with building a ‘Queenslander” style home in sub-tropic northern NSW over a 10 year period, each additional veranda added created several degrees reduction in temperature in summer.
Not only does a roof keep water out, it is also an impervious layer that can be used to catch rain water (for drinking, washing or irrigation- depending on the air/water quality). Pathways, roads & kerbside gutters are likewise existing water channels that should be used for catchment in the dry as well as drainage when excessively wet. Efficient design is obtaining multiple functions from each element.
Energy efficiency: Use no more than you need! Left: Solar light tubes installed in the Rainbow Cafe. While designing & building a house from scratch is not possible for most people, there are many modifications that can be used to minimize energy use. As well as low wattage lights, skylights & reflective surfaces take advantage of natural light, reducing lighting costs. Most appliances now have comparative energy ratings- & yes, turning appliances off at the wall when not in use DOES make a difference. Heating costs can be reduced with insulation, covering windows with heavy drapes & using door stoppers to prevent drafts & of course, an extra layer of clothing uses far less energy than the heater! (Artificial heating & cooling may well interfere with our body’s natural seasonal adjustment & temperature regulation, leading to an increase in colds & flu. Do yourself a favour & toughen up!) In summer, make use of natural airflow (of pre-cooled air from shade trees & verandas) by opening windows & doors. Wear a wet scarf or shawl for personal evaporative air conditioning on those scorching days- you won’t believe how well it works!
byron green building centre I worked for Deb at Painted Earth Eco-friendly Paints & Finishes in Byron Bay for 2 years & can vouch for her utmost integrity & dedication to finding environmentally responsible solutions for our homes. Now she & new business partner Dave have expanded their services to include all aspects of green building- the most all inclusive business of its kind in Australia!
hemp building another first for the region. Clara has done the research to make zero THC hemp an (approved) viable alternative building material
http://www.poohsolutions.com/ our local compost toilet & waste water expert
natural homes gallery Inspirational pics from around the globe
Why sustainable living? To sustain means to endure. It’s no secret that the systems that support modern human lifestyles are generally not sustainable, relying on the overuse of limited resources without sufficient consideration to their renewal. In a sustainable system, such as a natural ecosystem, each element within that system supports other elements, so that the system as a whole, whilst constantly changing, also replenishes itself in perpetuity.
The challenge for modern humans is to design OUR support systems to emulate these principles to ensure that we protect the future viability of those elements that are essential for our collective survival, such as clean water & air, healthy soils and natural genetic diversity.
Why the need for change? Although it is desirable that every one & every being be unique, when any element becomes disproportionate or out of balance, the integrity of the whole is threatened and it would seem human activities have created just such a situation today. Survival is part of our natural programming (perhaps because our individual survival is primary programming, the individual ego has developed). However, when separate egos (& the collective anthropocentric ego) take precedence, greed & disregard for other elements may result, threatening the harmony (& ultimate survival) of the whole. There is much to do to repair the imbalances we have create. It may be however, that our individual differences are necessary & each has a part to play, each according to their interests, talents & inclinations. What is needed is for us to understand the interconnectedness of all things on earth, combine our individual talents & work together to create a harmonious whole. Diversity within Unity Consciousness.
Elements of Integrated Sustainable Living Systems
Self-Reliance- resources & materials obtained locally from naturally occurring, non-polluting & renewable resources. Management & processing by locals. (relative independence from outside sources)
Self-sustaining- all elements retained/returned to system (recycled or used to support/feed other elements/ aspects of system
Preservation & improvement of the quality of fundamental resources
Maximize diversity within the system to ensure overall viability remains strong in face of changing circumstances.
These ideas & more detailed aspects of design are explored on this site & in Permaculture books & courses. (See more Tips for sustainable choices. )
The future is no more than the consequences of today. With the wisdom of the past and the technology of tomorrow, each one of us has the opportunity of being the innovative architects of our future, and the effects of our choices create not only our personal wellbeing, but that of our children and all other life forms with which we share this precious planet. (See conscious creating)
The concept of ‘sustainability’ means different things to different people, & with most of us enculturated to a modern western lifestyle, solar hot water, more efficient light bulbs & so on are the sort of things many people think of as ‘sustainable’. The fundamentals of life, (food, water, basic shelter & the wider enviroment) are rarely given much consideration, when the reality is that everything on this round planet is connected & ALL our activites impact on everything else! The focus of zone one & this site is on the basics, those things that we must get right if we are to create an enduring abundant future. Even access to electricity & transport is unimportant if we fail to secure clean water, nutritious food & a healthy natural enviroment.
Sustainability’ means the capacity to endure. This means to ensure that the effects of our choices today contribute to beneficial future consequences. So, as possible:
* Remember, everything is connected, contemplate the potential impacts of your actions & consider the harmony of the whole.
* Take responsibility for your own immediate needs where possible (grow your own food, collect rain water, use stand-alone power)
* Buy local (support farmer’s markets, & independent businesses)
* Invest in quality, avoid disposables & reduce unnecessary consumption & waste (use no more than you really need)-Remember the 3 R’s- reduce, re-use, recycle
* Use renewable resources (solar, wind, wave & thermal energy)
* Avoid the products of destructive manufacturing & farming methods (palm oil, food crops for ethanol, rainforest timbers, child labour, etc)
* Protect genetic diversity (save seeds, avoid GMO’s, protect wildlife, their habitats & wilderness areas)
* Boycott unethical companies & their products (do the research!)
* Minimize your own environmental impact- use non-toxic & bio-degradable products (don’t put down the sink what you can’t drink!)
* Implement passive design solutions (natural lighting & ventilation, insulation, thermal mass, gravity flow)
* Use communal assets (public transport, land share, co-operatives)
* Support positive solutions (community gardens, land care, etc)
It’s your world – Get involved!
The Multiplier Effect : Money spent at a local business is three times more likely to re-circulate within the local community.
Economic Stability : Less reliance on outside inputs and less subject to external economic fluctuations.
Foster local Job creation : Independent businesses create more jobs locally and are the largest group of employers nationwide
Encourage local prosperity : Entrepreneurship, innovation, self-reliance and inspiration for the next generation.
Better Service : Local knowledge, experience and accountability.
Invest in Community : Local business owners live in the community they serve –they are less likely to move production off-shore and are reliable generators of wealth, income and jobs, as well as securing property assets in local hands.
Nurture Community : Local business owners and their employees are actively involved in their community—sporting clubs, schools and other community groups, as well as being generous supporters of charitable causes.
Celebrate our Uniqueness! Love where you live!
Inside our ‘Local Shoppe” Lots of lovingly made produce from the hill folks; organic teas, coffee, honey, bush tucker jams, sauces, free range eggs, organic milk & cheeses, dried herbs & whatever else is in season.
Our garden supplies & plant stock are sourced locally too!